I took my oldest son to buy his first suit last night. His eighth grade graduation is coming up, and his school does a few dressy events. He rejects any kind of clothes shopping as a matter or course, but he was a pretty good sport. As I stood behind him at the mirror, decked out in his entire outfit, now nearly as tall as me, strong and kind, full of life and changing–changing so very fast–I had to choke back the tears.
I am a father of two boys who are both in the throes of puberty. We talk about it often, and laugh about the awkwardness and the changes they are experiencing. I’m so glad my kids (and their friends, interestingly) have such a good sense of humor about the pain in the butt that puberty is. In a routine physical our family doctor once characterized some physical symptom–I think it was a voice crack–as a sign of “4th Stage puberty.” From that day on every single voice-cracked sentence, every Cyclops-pimple was labelled a “stage four” problem, and we all would laugh.
I sometimes struggle with how much of the meaning behind puberty I should share with my kids. Do I try and give them a sense of the ultimate the purpose beyond all these new secondary sexual characteristics, the pimples, the hair, the weirdness? Should we talk about, and interpret it together? Or should we just let it happen? Mostly we just laugh about the changes, and have awkward conversations about sex and what they are facing over the next few years.
Today I ran into a fantastic paragraph describing the reason behind puberty. This description struck me as important somehow, and I marked it in my mind to someday share with my kids. I see this serving as the basis for a conversation to have with a 16-17 year old, or maybe a little later:
“Simply put, puberty is designed by God and nature to drive us out of our homes. And puberty generally does its job, sometimes too well! It hits us with a tumult and violence that overthrows our childhood and sends us out, restless, sexually driven, full of grandiose dreams, but confused and insecure, in search of a new home, one that we build for ourselves. And this is a time of much longing and searching: searching for an identity, searching for acceptance, searching for a circle of friends, searching for intimacy, searching for someone to marry, searching for vocation, searching for a career, searching for the right place to live, searching for financial security, and searching for something to give us substance and meaning–in a word, searching for a home. Expressions of this longing and search are what make up the meat of popular music, literature, and movies. Invariably, the motifs and refrains that abound there will revolve around questions like: Who am I? Where do I find meaning? Who will love me? How do I find love in a world full of infidelity and false promises? Countless expressions of longing, of heartache, of searching; but, in the end, one focus: a burning desire for a home we once had, somehow lost, and are looking for again. The struggle from being restlessly driven out of our first home to finding a state and a place to call home again is the journey of Essential Discipleship.” – Ronald Rolheiser, Sacred Fired, 16-17
It’s a stunning passage, so familiar to me. Some of what he describes I even recognize from well into my frustrating college and post-college years.
Reading this passage, and thinking about these things reminded me of one of my favorite Satellite Soul songs. I’ve written hundreds of songs in my life, every one of them more or less hoping to stumble into truth at some point. Sometimes you get lucky and actually capture reality in a (hopefully) compelling way. The song Wash just feels and sounds like puberty to me (also the nineties). Some of this tune I wrote when I was still in high school. I found the scraps of it years later and rewrote it for our first album. I’m putting this paragraph, and this song out there for parents of kids who are in the awkward and lovely journey to adulthood. God be with you, friends.